In 52 Healthy Changes, Essential Oils
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re you partial to perfume, a lover of lotions, or a candle connoisseur? All you aroma aficionados and fragrance fanatics, I’m talking to you!

Ya’ll, we have four kids and a dog…two active young boys and a baby in cloth diapers. We’re no strangers to smelly situations! Precisely why candles, air fresheners, room deodorizers and glade plug-ins were always at the ready to diffuse a stinky situation – I loved them all!

But did ya’ll know there are some very harmful ingredients lurking in these seemingly innocent products? I discussed the “dirty dozen for chemicals” in this post, if you missed it, it’s worth the read as it’s important we’re aware of dangers hiding in and around our homes.

Let’s look at the most common used for freshening up a room. We’ll discuss the possible dangers they pose and some healthier (tried and true) alternatives we love here in the Steffen household:


Who doesn’t love the glow of a candlelit room? I, for one, enjoy the ambiance and subtle fragrance a candle brings to a dark room. What I don’t love are the harmful chemicals released into the air. Chemicals that are considered equally as dangerous as second-hand smoke!

  • Paraffin: A common wax used in candle making, made from petroleum waste that’s deodorized and chemically bleached. Paraffin releases carcinogens into the air when burned (toluene and benzene are the same toxins found in diesel fuel fumes). Again, I’m all for pretty scents, but I’d never put my face to a car’s exhaust pipe and inhale just because it smelled nice!
  • Artificial Scents, Dyes & Heavy Metals: Most candles contain artificial scents and/or dyes that are released as chemicals into the air when burned. And many candles’ wicks contain heavy metals such as lead. These heavy metals are released into the air exceeding the acceptable limits of airborne heavy metals. This exposure has been linked to hormone disruption, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. (Source)

What to use instead? Good news! You can still burn your candles, you’ll just want to look for 100% beeswax candles, or candles made from 100% vegetable based oils. Be sure they’re 100% as many manufacturers will dilute their wax with paraffin to cut costs, but can legally still market their product as “made with beeswax”.

Air Fresheners

There are a variety of air fresheners available on the market today. Aerosol sprays, mists, plug-ins and potpourri. But these are not without their own dangers.

    • Some have the capability of blocking our “smell receptors”, making us unable to detect unpleasant odors.
    • Others contain oils that coat our nasal passages.
    • Many simply mask the original odor with a more pleasant-smelling scent.
    • Modern chemistry has even come up with air fresheners that break down the offensive odors, but all of the above contain a heavy dose of chemicals and are best avoided all together. (Source)

What to use instead? If your desire is to eliminate odors, try these Moso charcoal bags. They prevent mold, mildew and bacteria by absorbing excess moisture. We have one in each bathroom and the other two float around from room to room where needed (I toss one into our chest that houses our extra pillows and blankets every so often to keep them from smelling musty). The best part is, they’ll last for two years, “revive” them by simply placing in direct sunlight for an hour.

An essential oil diffuser is the perfect replacement for deodorizing sprays and wall plug-ins. With three speed settings, this diffuser has a run time from 3-8 hours. There are hundreds of oils to choose from; mix and match until you find your favorite scent (equal parts sweet orange and peppermint is our favorite!) The health benefits from the oils is just an added bonus!


I remember loving me some Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson. Both the song and the perfume totally rocked! But what the perfume industry isn’t sharing are their 3,100 stock chemical ingredients used in most of the most popular perfumes on the market today.

Seems wrong that these ingredients aren’t legally required to be labelled, but they sneak by “due to the giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance.” Because of this Act, the cosmetics industry is able to keep the public in the dark about ingredients used in these “fragrances”, including those ingredients that present possible health risks and build up in people’s bodies. (Source)

  • Hormone disruptors:  Many of the chemicals labelled as “fragrance” contain harmful hormone disrupting properties, including mimicking the hormone estrogen and disrupting the thyroid, which throws off the entire balance of our body, causing undue strain on our endocrine system and a whole host of unwanted (and unnecessary) health issues.
  • Fetal abnormalities: Some fragrances may expose a woman’s growing fetus to diethyl phthalate (DEP), which is linked to abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys and sperm damage in adult men. (Source)
  • Sensitizers: These are chemicals known to trigger allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis. I don’t know about you, just just a simple walk past the perfume counter in a department store can give me an instant headache!

What to use instead? Scented lotions! I have always been a fan of anything citrus and had a constant supply of my favorite citrus scented lotion from the kiosk at the mall. But these can contain the same harmful fragrances as perfumes! If lotion is your solution, be sure to check out EWG to see if it passes! (Check out these recommendations from

Essential oils are a fabulous solution to perfume. I routinely dab on some lemongrass and head out the door (and am frequently asked what I’m wearing that smells so good!). You can even make your own scented lotion by adding some essential oils to your favorite, approved hand/body lotion.

If you’re an aroma aficionado then it’s time to take a good hard look at what fragrances you’re allowing into your home, and on your body. Healthy Change #12 is to ditch those harmful chemicals and find a healthier alternative!

Share with us which changes you’re making and let us know of any awesome products you’ve found that fit the bill!

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